Footsteps were approaching from around the corner. Jack looked around wildly. There was no shelter near enough to which to flee. He whipped out his automatic, flung himself down alongside the wall, and waited.
Two men appeared, but instead of rounding the corner they moved straight ahead. They were in earnest, but low-voiced conversation. They did not see him.
Jack stifled an exclamation. The man with Remedios was Rollins, his father’s trusted assistant. So stunned was Jack at the revelation that he did not strain to overhear what they were saying. In a moment they were beyond earshot.
Trembling with rage at this evidence of treachery on the part of Rollins, Jack rose to his feet. He intended to stalk the two conspirators. Then a new idea occurred to him. What were they doing at the radio plant? Perhaps, for reasons of their own, they had damaged it or put it out of commission. He decided to investigate.
Rollins and Remedios were now out of sight toward the front of the ranch house. Perhaps Rollins would have the audacity to take the other into his room, which opened like the other rooms directly upon the porch or gallery. If so, Jack could surprise them later. First, he would investigate at the radio plant.
Walking swiftly, he approached the door of the power house. An electric light shone within. The guard, Tom, jumped up from a chair where he had been sitting, reading, at the sound of Jack’s hurried footsteps. His hand reached for the ready revolver at his side, but was withdrawn at sight of his visitor.
“Oh, it’s you, Jack,” he said, addressing him familiarly, for a warm friendship had sprung up between the two. “I thought it might be a Greaser.”
“Tom,” said Jack, without any preliminaries, and showing his excitement in his voice and manner, “what was Mr. Rollins doing here? Who was that with him?”
Well enough Jack knew who the stranger was. But good friend though Tom was, Jack wanted to test him. The circumstances certainly were suspicious.
“Didn’t see the other feller,” Tom answered. “He stayed outside. Mr. Rollins said he was an oil driller. Mr. Rollins went into the station there.” Tom motioned to the radio operating room beyond a closed door. “Asked me to throw on the juice so he could use the telephone.”
“Whom did he talk to?”
“Why, I don’t know,” said Tom. “How would I?”
“How long was he in there?”
“Why, fifteen, twenty minutes. Maybe half an hour. Why, Jack? Anything wrong?”
“Yes, Tom, there is,” said Jack. “Can I trust you?”
Tom looked hurt.
“That’s fer you to say.”
“Excuse me, Tom,” said Jack. “But after what I’ve just seen I don’t know whom to trust. Yes, I believe you’re true blue, Tom. I’ll tell you. But wait a minute.”
He walked to the door and looked out. The coast was clear.